Piano, guitar, and cello house concert in Amsterdam

These ad hoc house concerts of live music followed by savoury food and great wines are run by a group of close friends in one of several locations. You have to get on their mailing list to be invited. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo gave a one hour house concert of 21st century works for piano and guitar in the same location. The host, a passionate music lover named Jos, welcomed the guests to her apartment and acknowledged the three Dutch composers before introducing the duo. I had intended to blog about this amazing reception of the composers, 21st century music, and the incredibly tasty food served in the “after party.”

On Saturday 26th June 2010, Robert Bekkers (guitar), Anne Ku (piano), and Stephanie Hunt (cello) gave a one hour house concert in the living room of a walk-up top floor one-bedroom apartment on Realeneisland, adjacent to Westerdok island of Amsterdam. It was the first time Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo collaborated with a cellist. The result was surprisingly refreshing.

For lack of a better name, all the pieces played were not originally written for the three instruments, hence “transcriptions.”

Programme: TRANSCRIPTIONS for cello, guitar, piano

  • Winter from Four Seasons, Vivaldi, arr. R. Bekkers for piano, guitar, cello
  • Sonata Op. 17 for cello and piano, Beethoven
  • Chaconne for solo guitar, JS Bach
  • Fantasiestucke Op. 17 for cello and piano, R. Schumann
  • Concerto de Aranjuez, Rodrigo, arr. R. Bekkers for piano, guitar, cello

Even Bach’s famous Chaconne was not written for the classical guitar but for solo violin.

The “art islands” which includes Westerdok can be reached by bus 18 or 22 in a matter of minutes from Amsterdam Central station. It is an area directly west and north west of the central train station, what used to be a shunting yard for the Dutch railways. Unknown to most tourists, this gem of a central location is being redeveloped (see article).

Less than a year ago, on 26 September 2009 to be precise, the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo gave a one hour house concert of 21st century works for piano and guitar in the same location. The host, a passionate music lover named Jos, welcomed the guests to her apartment and acknowledged the three Dutch composers before introducing the duo. I had intended to blog about this amazing reception of the composers, 21st century music, and the incredibly tasty food served in the “after party.”

I spoke to the lady who prepared the food. Trudy’s full-time job is not in the catering business but cooking is her hobby and passion. “Food to me is like music to you,” she said. “Give me a theme and I’ll create something to fit.”

I have since tasted her gastronomic creations at the artist Egon’s home and again on 26th June. I shouldn’t say “tasted,” for I actually devoured her home-smoked salmon, juicy pork steak skewers, garlic prawns, chicken liver pâté, spicy mushrooms, savoury chicken drumsticks, and other delights forever ingrained in my memory after the live music.

Recently Trudy sat in a cafe and overheard a conversation. “You know what is special about those house concerts at Egon’s place? The food afterwards.”

These ad hoc house concerts of live music followed by savoury food and great wines are run by a group of close friends in one of several locations. You have to get on their mailing list to be invited. Luckily I am on their mailing list — and I’m even willing to pay with music to enjoy the “after party.”

Yoga at Monument House Utrecht (part two)

On Saturday 19th June, our doors opened at 17:30 for a yoga group lesson. What was unique about this yoga session? For one, I finally learned when to breathe in or out (breathe in when you go up, breathe out when you go down — according to natural forces of gravity).

On Saturday 19th June, our doors opened at 17:30 for a yoga group lesson. First to arrive was Liek, a Dutch lady who had recently returned from India. She had told me at our sports club that everyone was doing yoga in India. Could it really be true?

Next to arrive on bicycle was Anna, an English scientist who was 7 months pregnant. While unsure at first about doing yoga at this stage of pregnancy, she soon realised that the breathing exercises helped calm her baby down. Her unborn child had been kicking and keeping her awake at night.

Merrenna, an Australian project manager who had been traveling nonstop for several weeks, looked forward to this 1.5 hour yoga session as a way to relax. The next day, she told me she finally slept well for the first time since her new assignment began.

Half an hour after the ladies and I got acquainted, Henk Fransen, whom I had met at a Dutch Indian dinner event in April, arrived with his friend Krishna from India. It was Krishna’s second visit to the Netherlands.

Instead of asking everyone to pay for the session, I made it potluck, i.e. everyone to bring a vegetarian dish for the dinner after the 1.5 hour yoga session.

  • Liek: Turkish bread and different spreads
  • Anna: mushroom, feta & tomato quiche
  • Merrenna: fruit pie, whipped cream and rose wine
  • Anne/Merrenna: penne in creamy blue cheese sauce
  • Henk: Indian sweets
  • Anne: drinks of fresh mint (from the garden) tea; chilled drinks – home-made elderflower drink, iced suntea, and sangria (peach, pear, apple, and orange slices)

What was unique about this yoga session? For one, I finally learned when to breathe in or out (breathe in when you go up, breathe out when you go down — according to natural forces of gravity). The rest, I’ll have to ask the other participants to LEAVE A REPLY below.

  1. it was authentic — ask Krishna about anything and he’d tell you something profound, for yoga comes from India. [I now understand why my non-Chinese friends prefer that I take them to Chinese restaurants rather than venturing on their own.]
  2. it was 1.5 hours rather than the usual 1 hour at fitness centres. At Yoga Awareness in Maui, Hawaii where I took a 1.5 hour group lesson, I felt 1.5 hour was more fitting.
  3. the small class size (4 ladies + 1 man) allowed Krishna to give us individual attention.
  4. the private setting contributed to the experience: a Dutch monument house next to a peaceful canal with a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the linden trees
  5. the yoga session was spiritual with focus on breathing and proper technique — not the kind of exercise to sweat at fitness centres. [This is not to say yoga classes at fitness centres are wrong, but merely that the focus is different.]
Yoga teacher Krishna at Monument House Utrecht, June 2010
Yoga teacher Krishna at Monument House Utrecht, June 2010

After the yoga session, we filled our plates with different vegetarian dishes (contributed by everyone) and sat down on the oak parquet floor to enjoy a small concert. As the sun set just before Summer Solstice, Krishna sang devotional and folk music to his harmonium and told stories.

Everyone expressed thanks and interest in the next yoga session at the Monument House. But Krishna had to return to India where he lives and works. Who will be the next yoga teacher to lead us to enlightenment?

About Krishna Bijalwan, yoga teacher

Qualified as a yoga teacher in 2004, Krishna has been doing yoga since 1988. Besides his full-time job as a high school teacher in Uttarkashi in the Himalayas, he also conducts yoga workshops for school students in India and adults in the Netherlands (since 2007) and Israel (2008). His yoga workshop was aired on the Discovery Channel all over India in December 2006.

In Spring 2010, Krishna realised his dream of having a guest house and yoga centre on the banks of the Ganga River in the Himalayas. His newly built guest house “Anand Ganga” offers clean accommodation (to Western standards), home-cooked meals, and yoga classes. The quiet location is excellent for hiking. A week’s accommodation with 2 yoga classes and 3 meals per day cost under 200 euros. Ten days of the same cost US$ 300. More details on the website which will be updated with more information.

Krishna's new guest house and yoga centre Anand Ganga in the Himalayas
Krishna's new guest house and yoga centre Anand Ganga in the Himalayas

continued from part one